DIY Antique Dressers

If you follow along on my Instagram page, you know that I am a sucker DIYs, especially ones for your home! So when I found an antique dresser with good bones, I snagged it with intentions of giving it a coastal makeover. Turned out it needed more than just a makeover. So follow along to see how I refinished two antique dressers!


Before sharing the how-to of refinishing an antique dresser there is something you need to keep in mind. When it comes to decorating with antique furniture, you can change the finish, but you can not change the structure of it. For example, if you don’t like the legs on a piece, or the shape of it, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to fix that. So don’t settle for an antique that doesn’t have all the qualities you are looking for. We learned this the hard way. The top piece of our first dresser (pictured above) was a bit of a disaster but I loved the structure of it, and it was solid wood. When we started sanding away, the top kept chipping away. Turns out they had a fake wood top that they glued on! So we had to whip out the big guns litterally, to get it to a point worth saving. So I had to pivot and decided we would paint it instead. But I was still longing for a coastal antique looking dresser so I searched for a second one and found one! I am so happy with how it turned out. Below is the finished second dresser!


Now that you’ve seen the before and afters, let me give you the steps and tools you need to get both looks! Just remember it takes time and hard work, but in the end I think it’s worth it.


Dewalt 20 volt brushless cordless orbital sander with bag

Sandpaper for powertools (80, 120, 220)

Klean Strip Kwik Paint and Varnish Stripper

Utility brush

Brass utility brush

Annie Sloan’s clear wax  (optional)

If painting:

Granite Peak Sherwin Williams Paint (I promise its is the only blue/grey you’ll ever need in your decor)

Paint Roller and Brush

Heat Gun and Hammer and Chisel *only for taking off any fake wood finishes that you might run into when purchasing an antique. You will know if you need this if the layer can be picked off or separated from the genuine wood.

Sanding/Coastal Look

When I found dresser number two, I knew she was the one and I knew exactly what to look for. So off came the mismatched handles and out came the sander. Dewalt are the only tools we use in our house. They are the best and worth the investment. I started with a 80 grit sandpaper and with a bit of elbow grease it started to reveal that beautiful original wood tone.

For the detailed parts that I did not want to run a sander over, running the risk of chipping it, I stripped it first, then used the sand brush to get into the small spots.

Then to give it that butter-smooth finish so it feels like it’s been professionally refinish, you give it a light sanding with a 220-grit sandpaper. You can run your hand over the area you had just sanded, and after you use the 200-grit sandpaper it feels silky-smooth, compared to the rest of it.

Once I was finished sanding the dresser, I took a clean rag and wiped down the entire piece, to ensure there was no dust or residue still on it from the sanding process. I loved the color of the unfinished wood. Next you can add a clear wax such as  Annie Sloan’s clear wax to seal it in, so it would stay like that. But you don’t have to!

There are two things to remember when applying wax. First, it’s going to look wet, but don’t worry as it dries it cures to the piece, and that “wet” look go away. And second, you only need a little bit of wax, and apply it in small areas. It should be dry to the touch right afterwards, and that’s how you know you rubbed it in enough.


Once we stripped the fake wood off the top of dresser number one, we went through the same process. Took all the hardware off and sanded, thats when we noticed the wood splitting. We noticed there was a fake wood glued to the top of the dresser and front of the two bottom draws. So we used the hot gun and chisel to peel off those layers. Then back to sanding and then painted. But the first paint color I chose, I ended up hating! Salty dog’s tone is way too bright for me. So I went back to Sherwin Williams and after looking at 20 different swatches and looking them up online (I find online photos give a better visual) I decided on Granite Peak. We applied two coats with a simple paint roller and brush and I LOVE this color! It’s the perfect tone.


There are so many great options when looking for hardware! Don’t forget to check out Homegoods’ storage section for handles. That’s where I found these BINO Brass Finish Knobs.

For the second dresser I chose these classic pull knobs. They look great with my current decor and give it a Restoration Hardware look.

So there you go! There is everything we used to get these dressers into blog worthy shape. And even though it took a lot of work, I am already planning my next on! Let me know your thoughts on what I should do next!



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